Dáil Éireann - Volume 678 - 12 March, 2009

Written Answers. - School Transport.

Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the impact that the revised charges on tickets for school transport in 2009/2010 will have upon people; if steps will be taken to have same reviewed particularly in view of family circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10742/09]

  Deputy Seán Haughey: The costs in school transport, a service delivered by Bus Éireann on behalf of my Department, have been increasing arising from a range of issues such as:

In ensuring a comfortable and safe transport service for over 135,000 children daily travelling to and from school (breakdown by county not readily available), measures to ensure the highest standards including the phasing out of the 3 for 2 seating arrangement on both primary and post-primary services, providing all children with an adult seat each;

[193] The addition of a considerable number of vehicles to address capacity shortfalls arising from the decision to provide each child with an individual seat and the equipping of all dedicated school buses with safety belts;

Increased demands to meet the needs of special needs children;

Parental choice.

In order to minimise the overall impact of these charges on families:

the increases will apply to the 55,000 eligible post primary pupils and children availing of concessionary transport;

Primary school transport remains free of charge for over 54,500 children;

Parents will be offered the option to spread the amount due over two payments payable in July and December;

A maximum family payment of €650 will apply.

Charges continue to be waived in the case of eligible post-primary children where the family is in possession of a valid medical card The overall spend on school transport in 2009 is now estimated to be €194m — a reduction of €2m in the revised allocations as a result of efficiencies.

Taking into all the factors outlined, it is not envisaged that there will be a reduction in the annual charge system, the estimated expenditure or the level of charges. My Department has also commenced a Value for Money Review of the School Transport Scheme which is to be completed before the end of the year.